Commercial truck drivers have been held to limits on the number of hours they can drive since the first hours of service regulations were passed in 1938. Over the last 77 years, hours of service rules have been a contentious issue for trucking companies, drivers, legislators, and the motorists who share the road with big trucks. But despite back-and-forth changes over the years that have either favored the trucking industry or worked to protect motorists, logging the hours has always been dependent upon the honesty of the driver, who has to manually record active driving hours and rest breaks in a paper logbook. That will change, however, when the new federal rule requiring the use of an electronic logging device goes into effect in 2017.
Current Hours of Service Rules
One of the leading causes of truck driver error leading to crashes is impairment of the driver, often due to extreme fatigue. The hours of service rules are intended to force drivers to take adequate rest breaks so that their driving ability is not impaired by fatigue. The rules also place a control on trucking companies, preventing them from pushing drivers to drive beyond their physical limits. Currently, truck driver hours are limited as follows:
- May drive a maximum of 11 hours after a 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
- May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
With paper tracking, these rules can be easily manipulated by drivers trying to keep to a schedule or beat the system.
How Electronic Logging Devices Work
Rather than drivers manually logging hours, electronic logging devices automatically record driving time by monitoring engine hours, vehicle movement, and location information. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the devices will also save over $1 billion in paperwork costs for trucking companies and federal inspectors, who will no longer have to sift through paper logbooks. Despite complaints from some in the trucking industry, federal experts are confident that electronic logging devices will make the roads safer for all drivers.
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